I missed most of the Design Review Committee meeting last night and all the public comment, but did get out of work early enough to catch what Madeleine Zayas-Mart and Suzie Lee had to say. C. Blake Hunstman, strangely, wasn’t there.
Anyway, they pretty much ignored the irrelevant questions in the staff report and it sounds like they’re both on board. Madeline Zayas-Mart talked about how the building would add vibrancy and safety to the neighborhood, and seemed to really like the design and appreciated what it would improve both the streetscape and the skyline. Suzie Lee was a little more pro-garden. She began her comments by saying that after 30 years of living in Oakland, she saw the garden for the very first time last month, and that she asked a bunch of friends and neighbors about it, and none of them had ever heard of it. But she did think that it was beautiful, and that the city made a huge mistake by not accepting the donation offer. She said that she supported the building (but possibly with a smaller footprint) only after any private fundraising efforts to preserve the garden are exhausted.
I just don’t get this talk of privately raising money for the garden at all. I mean – fine, if they can get the money to buy and maintain it, great. I would still prefer to see the site opened to the public, increasing the amount of open space in the neighborhood, and I would prefer to see the building there, but if they had the cash to keep the garden, I’d at least see the point in having that discussion. But we all know that there’s no way they’re raising $8 million to buy the thing, and they aren’t coming up with any land to swap – if either of these were an option, they would have produced them sometime in the 19 months they’re been trying to stop the development.